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December survey says efforts to tame inflation not enough

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Majority of Filipinos disapprove of the administration’s efforts to rein in the rising cost of goods and services, noting that inflation remains the most urgent national concern that must be addressed immediately, a Pulse Asia survey showed.

Seven in 10 respondents were unhappy with how the government tried to tame inflation, a double-digit increase from only 56 percent in the third quarter survey to 73 percent in the fourth quarter poll.

The results of the survey, conducted from Dec. 3 to 7, 2023, also showed that Filipinos disapproved of government’s measures to increase workers’ pay (36 percent), fight graft and corruption (33 percent), reduce poverty (39 percent) and address the problem of involuntary hunger (24 percent).

Next to controlling inflation, increasing workers’ pay was the second most urgent national concern at 40 percent, followed by reducing poverty (25 percent), fighting graft and corruption (19 percent), assisting farmers and addressing the problem of involuntary hunger (18 percent each).

The non-commissioned survey had 1,200 adult respondents aged 18-years-old and above, with a ± 2.8 percent error margin.

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Earlier, the Department of Agriculture said it will meet with farmers, millers, wholesalers, importers and traders soon to determine if it should impose a suggested retail price on regular and well-milled rice amid a recent spike in the price of the staple.

The Philippine Statistics Authority observed that while December inflation had dropped, the rate of increase in the cost of rice accelerated to its fastest rate in 14 years.

DA Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa said the government is concerned about the recent P2 per kilo price increase in certain markets and wants to address the issue early on.

The Federation of Free Farmers Cooperatives, however, said the planned SRP should be reasonable and not too low.

“Although, right now, farmers won’t be affected, traders will recoup their losses from buying palay at a low price come the next harvest season. It is the farmers who will suffer,” said Federation of Free Farmers Cooperatives national manager Raul Montemayor.

The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) said an SRP could also affect rice importation.

“Worldwide, prices are really high. If you impose an SRP, importers might no longer bring in rice because they are buying the staple from Vietnam and Thailand at higher prices,” SINAG president Rosendo So said.

AGRI party-list Rep. Wilbert Lee, for his part, renewed his push for the passage of his proposed measure which seeks to establish a “price subsidy” program that will help local farmers ensure their profit and entice them to boost their production.

Under the proposed measure, the DA, in coordination with the Department of Trade and Industry and other relevant agencies, will buy palay from farmers at higher prices, and sell the rice to consumers at cheaper rates.

“With more income, we empower our farmers to provide food for their family and for the entire country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. welcomed support from private sectors for increased spending on agricultural infrastructure and mechanization to hasten the farm sector’s modernization, increase productivity, and ensure the country is food secure.

“If we can work together well, then I think we can move forward faster,” said Tiu Laurel in a forum that gathered regional agricultural and fisheries councils that submitted their recommendations to the DA chief.

Among the recommendations of the regional councils were the establishment of cold storage facilities for vegetables, including onions, as well as laboratories for biosecurity concerns; the construction of farm-to-market roads or other modes for faster movement of agricultural products; the conversion of rice competitive enhancement funds to rice price subsidy; and the mechanization of farm processes, including those for high value crops and fiber.

The groups also proposed the establishment of local nurseries and seed banks to ensure high quality planting materials and seeds, as well as the timely release of seeds; the establishment of inland fisheries and hatcheries in upland areas and of data centers for agricultural statistics; the revival of direct farmer linkage to market via KADIWA centers; the construction of more irrigation facilities; the implementation of the higher biofuel blend; the widening of soil testing to optimize land use and productivity; and the creation of a Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

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